Entries Filed in 'Capitol news'
The Maine Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill to support and expand Kennebec County’s successful Veterans Treatment Court program. With unanimous votes in both the House and the Senate, the measure now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.
The Veterans Treatment Court currently operates in Kennebec County and is open to any newly returned veteran in the state but may be difficult to access for veterans living farther away. Rep. Lori Fowle, the bill’s primary sponsor, said her measure would provide a stable source of funding that would allow veterans courts to slowly expand to other parts of Maine.
“I want to thank lawmakers for these strong, bipartisan votes recognizing that we have to do more to help these veterans rebuild their lives,” said Fowle. “The Veteran’s Treatment Court is already achieving success, and this bill will ensure that success continues.”
The two-part bill would fund a part-time prosecutor to ensure that Kennebec County’s veterans court can continue on stable financial footing.
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Tags: Maine's Veteran's court·Veterans in Maine
ReVision installation on EcoVillage’s showcase GO Logic passive solar home. photo by Ramona du houx
In a 22-13 vote, the Senate Republicans sustained Governor LePage’s veto of a bill that would have provided rebates for solar panels and heat pumps for low-income Mainers. Overriding a veto requires two-thirds, or 24 Senate votes.The Senate originally supported the measure in a vote of 22-12. Republican Senator Ron Collins initially supported the bill then flipped his vote and supported Governor LePage’s veto.
“Despite Maine’s abundant solar resource, we are the only state in New England with zero policy support for solar energy. Gov. LePage’s veto of the solar rebate bill, and the Senate’s failure to override the veto, demonstrate that our state leadership thinks fossil fuels are the way to go. This is reckless in a state that already has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in New England, while the state’s biggest industry, tourism, is predicated on a pristine natural environment,” said Phil Coupe of Revision Energy.
The measure would have reestablished the solar rebate program under Efficiency Maine and helped Mainers install more than 1,250 new solar panels and heat pumps at Maine homes and businesses.
“This bill would have created jobs in an emerging industry and helped low-income Mainers heat their homes,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “Why would you oppose jobs for Maine, or assistance for the elderly and low-income Mainers struggling to pay their oil bills? It’s disappointing Governor LePage’s veto spree has once again hurt our economy and hurt some of our most vulnerable neighbors.”
Maine spends $5 billion per year importing fossil fuels and is the most petroleum-dependent state for home heating, with more than 70% of households using it as their primary heating source.
According to a 2010 report, rooftop solar panels alone could provide 24% of Maine’s electricity.
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A measure that would bolster the state’s property tax fairness credit for Maine families will become law.
Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday signed the bill, LD 1751, which would double property tax credits for low and middle income residents and seniors.
“This is fantastic news for Maine families struggling to keep up with rising property taxes,” said bill sponsor Speaker of the House Mark Eves . “By increasing this credit, we will be putting more money back in the pockets of middle and low income families and seniors.”
The measure increases the dollar amount of property tax credits for low and middle income residents under age 65 from $300 to $600 and from $400 to $900 for filers 65 years of age and older. It also expands eligibility to more renters.
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Tags: Property tax relief in Maine
The Legislature on Thursday passed the East Coast’s first bill to address the threat of ocean acidification as the Senate gave the measure its final approval with a vote of 33-0. The bill, LD 1602, now goes to Gov. Paul LePage.
“Maine has the opportunity to lead on this issue,” said Rep. Mick Devin, the bill’s sponsor and a marine biologist. “The overwhelming support for my bill shows that Maine understands that ocean acidification is a real problem. It poses a threat to our coastal environment and the jobs that depend on it. We must address this threat head-on.”
The measure would establish a commission to study and address the negative effects of ocean acidification on the ecosystem and major inshore shellfisheries. The committee membership would be made up of stakeholders including fishermen, aquaculturists, scientists and legislators.
Rising levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use are causing changes in ocean chemistry. As carbon dioxide and seawater combine, carbonic acid forms. Carbonic acid can dissolve the shells of shellfish, an important commercial marine resource. Over the past two centuries, ocean acidity levels have increased 30 percent.
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In a 19-14 vote, the Senate approved an amended version of a bill to increase access to health care with a private option component modeled after New Hampshire’s program.
“I will support any reasonable compromise that brings health care to more Maine people,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, who sponsored his own expansion bill, LD 1640. “If we can save even one life with this compromise, to me, it’s worth it.”
The amendment to the bill, LD 1578, would require federal funds to purchase private health insurance through the federal health insurance exchange created through the Affordable Care Act. It is modeled after New Hampshire’s bipartisan health protection program proposed by New Hampshire Senate members and passed by their full legislature.
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Maine is on its way to becoming the first state in the nation to support foster children with higher education through the age of 26.
The Legislature on Thursday passed LD 1683, Resolve, To Improve Degree and Career Attainment for Former Foster Children, as the Senate gave the measure its final approval. It now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.
Sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry , the bill would allow former foster children to receive guidance and financial help with higher education expenses averaging $5,000 a year until their 27th birthdays. At present, Maine provides no support or guidance beyond age 20. The bill leverages one private foundation dollar for every two public dollars and would support up to 40 young Mainers at a given time.
“Morally and economically, it makes sense to help these young Mainers complete their education,” Berry said. “Even with the best of childhoods, how many of us were fully independent at age 20? How many of us would cut off our own kids once they turn 20?”
Youth in care often have multiple foster care placements that contribute to gaps in their educations. It is not unusual for youth in care to start college after age 18, and only 2 percent to on to receive a four-year degree.
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The Legislature on Thursday passed a $50 million bond plan to boost job creation by small businesses and invest in key sectors of the state’s economy and clean water infrastructure.
“Democrats and Republicans came together to make critical investments in our economy,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “This is a positive step towards boosting jobs by building on the best of Maine.”
The plan is made up of six separate measures. Each received two-thirds approval in both chambers of the Legislature on Thursday.
The largest of the six proposals would invest $12 million to recapitalize the Regional Economic Development Loan Program and the Commercial Loan Insurance Programs — proven financing programs that help promising small business on the cusp of job creation access capital.
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A bill that would protect Maine lakes and the local economies that depend on them is on the way to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.
The Legislature on Friday passed LD 1744, An Act to Protect Maine Lakes, as the Senate gave the measure final approval with a vote.
“We hope the governor signs this bill to show how much Maine values its lakes. They support $3.5 billion in annual economic activity and the jobs of 52,000 Mainers,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill will ensure responsible stewardship and protect the water quality that affects property owners, wildlife and local economies.”
The Legislature approved the bill at a time when water quality is declining.
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Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx
Speaker of the House Mark Eves will offer a final compromise on his bill to accept federal funds to provide life-saving health care to 70,000 Maine people, including 2,700 veterans.
“This proposal is dramatically different from the prior effort to expand health care to Maine people,” said The Speaker of the House, Mark Eves. “I propose this in good conscience and in good faith as one last effort to provide critical health care that will both save lives and boost our economy.”
The amendment to the bill, LD 1578, would require federal funds to purchase private health insurance through the federal exchange marketplace. It is modeled after New Hampshire’s bipartisan health protection program proposed by New Hampshire Senate members and passed by the full legislature.
“Our neighboring state of New Hampshire has recently successfully passed a version of Medicaid expansion that puts the vast majority of people on the private health insurance exchange. Arkansas has also been able to do this,” said Eves. “Both states successfully negotiated an agreement while having a divided government. I have to believe, and hold out hope, that if New Hampshire can do this in a divided government, we can do it.”
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Tags: ACA funding in Maine
Maine’s capitol at night, photo by Ramona du Houx
Maine’s lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill to stop multinational corporations from dodging Maine taxes through accounting tricks. The bill now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his John Hancock. LD 1120, An Act To Improve Maine’s Tax Laws, would level the playing field for Maine-based businesses by preventing tax evasion by multinational corporations that use tax code loopholes to make it seem as though the income was generated elsewhere.
“Democrats are calling on the governor to do the right thing for Maine businesses and taxpayers,” said Rep. Adam Goode, the bill’s sponsor. “Sign this bill, close loopholes exploited by huge multinational corporations and stop tax evasion that puts our small businesses at a competitive disadvantage.”
Under the measure, corporations would have to report income from a list of 38 known offshore tax havens.
Maine loses $10 million in each two-year budget period, according to an estimate made by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review with help from Maine Revenue Services. This revenue could be used for priorities like revenue sharing, increased property tax fairness credits, early education, Clean Elections or helping seniors afford prescriptions.
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Tags: Tax loopholes in Maine and USA